Kylie’s Story — We Need To Change People’s Perspectives
It was autumn 20 years ago. I remember there was a fog around and the night was cold. I was alone.
I had a shot at around 10:00 PM in one of those visitor information centres in the NSW country town I lived in. I remember mixing up the shot. My next memory was waking up in hospital next morning.
I had been found unconscious by the staff who operated the visitor centre when they opened for the day. They called the ambos who gave me Narcan (naloxone) and rushed me to hospital.
I was lucky to survive.
However, that overdose was to affect the rest of my life. I had fallen unconscious with my legs in an awkward position, cutting off the circulation. As a result, I completely lost my mobility.
I really think things would have been much different if I hadn’t gone into hospital as an overdose. And I have to wonder what else contributed to the poor service I received. Being Aboriginal? Being a woman?
I do know I suffered a lot of stigma and discrimination as “just another junky”. I remember the pain team standing around my hospital bed and talking about me as though I wasn’t in the room. Like I was a number, not a person. As though I didn’t have feelings.
I was told by medical staff that I needed to have my leg amputated but once they started the surgery they found they could save it. Still, I spent several weeks in hospital, first in ICU and later in the Renal ward.
It is all down to my Mum that things went as well as they did. She really worked with the health professionals, pushing for me to get better care. Every day I thank her for going in to bat for me not just once but several times.
As far as my friends went, stigma and discrimination meant that I sadly lost contact with many of them. Overdose isn’t common among my friends. In fact, it’s almost a taboo subject. And because I overdosed “badly”, I lost contact with many of my friends who thought I had gone one step too far.
For 20 years my life has revolved around that overdose. It has been exhausting. All that time I had at least three specialist appointments a week, trying to get some movement in my legs. I’ve just had a hip replacement. It looks it’s like the solution I have been hoping for.
As hard as it has been, my overdose was cathartic. It definitely made me the resilient person I am today. I am more able to deal with life’s ups and downs because my “the night I nearly died” moment gives me a strong belief in myself and in my abilities.
The experience I have had with the health system has been awful. It has made me passionate about wanting to change the way health professionals view people who use drugs. It seems ridiculous to have to say that we deserve the same health care as everyone else, yet my experience has been that medical staff really don’t believe we do. I want to get the stigma in the health system dealt with.
My experience has led to me change things in my life I wasn’t happy with. I decided I would help other people who used drugs, particularly around stigma and discrimination. I have completed tertiary qualifications so I can work in the drug and alcohol sector and with survivors of domestic violence. I use my story in my work.
I’ve made a new life for myself, and I know that I’m making a difference.